We were all stymied by that question because we come from the restaurant/deli end of the cooking operation, where no one had ever used a pressure cooker. We didn’t even have a clue what a jiggler was.
In fact, if you ask Sy Ginsberg how to cook corned beef, he will generally answer “until it’s done”. While that sounds a bit snarky, the truth is that it is very hard to give generalized instructions for cooking corned beef. Corned beef, although a processed item, is still fresh meat. That means that proper cooking depends in large part on the size and cut of the meat. A whole corned beef brisket that weighs 10 pounds is just not going to cook for the same time and in the same way as a 3 pound piece of first-cut (the thinner, smaller “point” of a whole brisket).
But with St. Patrick’s Day looming and people anxious to make a special corned beef dinner, here are 5 tips we can offer.
Corned beef should always be cooked in water. Whether you use a pressure cooker, slow cooker, or a pot on top of a stove, you need to have a container large enough for the corned beef to fit in. Then you must cover the meat entirely with water, but only enough water to just cover the meat. If you are cooking on the stove top, you will probably need a stock pot.
COOK THE PIECE WHOLE
Don’t try to cheat by slicing the meat if your pot isn’t large enough. Cutting a whole brisket in half to fit inside of a pot is acceptable, but that’s about the only pre-cooking cut that’s safe. Otherwise your beef will fall apart into a shredded mess. The picture at the top of our blog is a corned beef brisket, sliced after cooking whole.
LOW OR SLOW
If you are using a slow cooker, only cook on low. We can’t tell you how long, because it depends on the size of the meat and every slow cooker is different. Plan on 8-10 hours. If you are boiling on the stove top, once your water has reached boiling, turn it down and keep on a s-l-o-w boil or simmer the entire time. It will likely take several hours.
SKIP THE VEGGIES
Hey, we love a boiled dinner, too (corned beef, cabbage, potato, carrots), but we aren’t a big fan of cooking the vegetables in the same pot and at the same time as the meat. It varies the cook time of the meat too much, and they take up precious water resources in the pot. If you like the taste that the cooking meat imparts on the vegetables, cook the corned beef first and then use the cooking water to cook the vegetables.
When Sy says “cook until it’s done”, he means that the thickest part of the meat should be easily pierced with a fork, and the fork removed without lifting the meat. So besides a large pot, you need to have a meat fork with long tines to pierce through a thick piece of beef.
The USDA recommends that corned beef be cooked to an internal temperature of 158 degrees as a safeguard against pathogens, but we recommend a higher internal temp – 165-175 degrees.
By the way, we answered the question about the pressure cooker by pointing her toward this blog. It features a picture of our competitor’s product, but it made our customer happy.